Dover Castle and the White Cliffs
Join John England Tours for a fun and informative tailor-made tour of Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover. Learn about the turbulent 2,000-year history of England’s largest castle and visit the White Cliffs, one of the country’s most iconic locations.
Accompanied on your way by John, your expert local guide, you’ll learn about historical figures from some of English history’s most dramatic chapters.
Learn about England’s time under Roman rule. Discover Anglo-Saxon Britain. Observe extraordinary medieval interiors inside Dover Castle and uncover the colourful characters of England’s Tudor era.
And while you’re here, be sure to explore our full range of tailor-made tour options and private days in Kent.
Dover Castle: Key to England
Your first glimpse of Dover Castle will take your breath away! This 2,000-year-old fortification is in contention for England’s largest castle. (Windsor Castle also stakes their claim). Enter the castle in the company of your expert guide and learn about King Henry II’s great place.
Explore the Great Tower, one of the most recognisable English castles keeps of all. And be sure to ascend to the top of this giant structure to enjoy views across the splendid local landscape and out to sea.
From its early Iron Age origins to its use as a bomb shelter during WW2, Dover Castle’s strategic position has guaranteed its involvement in many action-packed moments in English history. This tour offers areas of interest sure to please visitors of all ages.
Dover Castle During Roman Britain
It is believed that Dover Castle’s origins can be traced back to Iron Age Britain, with earthwork fortifications likely having been in place before the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD. The castle’s earliest beginnings remained somewhat obscured in the mists of history, but excavations have indeed pointed to unusual design elements that don’t seem to fit with standard medieval practices.
The site’s Roman era is represented by a unique structure that remains for all to see: a Roman lighthouse! Yes, Dover Castle is home to an incredibly rare extant Roman lighthouse, (or pharoses); one of only three surviving Roman lighthouses in the world.
Converted into a bell tower during the Saxon era, the Roman lighthouse at Dover is England’s best-preserved Roman building. Another Roman lighthouse was located on the nearby Western Heights of Dover, though only a stone (known as the Bredenstone) survives today.
The Roman lighthouse at Dover Castle is not to be missed – marvel at an existing tower that was guiding Roman ships to safety some 2,000 years ago! It’s a truly unique historical site.
Dover Castle During the Norman Era
An early version of the castle was destroyed by the forces of William the Conqueror following his victory at the Battle of Hastings. However, these newly arrived Normans understood the region’s strategic importance and quickly set to rebuilding a fortification atop the very ruins of the clay Saxon building they had raised to the ground.
King William I was soon to give Kent the motto Invicta, meaning undefeated or unconquered – indicating that this area was the key to England from its earliest days.
During the Norman era, no less than eight knights were charged with protecting Dover Castle – a telling sign of how valuable an asset the castle was thought to be.
Dover Castle: Plantagenet England
Today, Dover Castle is lovingly and expertly maintained by English Heritage. Modern renovations led to English Heritage installing interiors that give an insight into life during the high Middle Ages. This is undoubtedly one of the aspects of a visit to Dover Castle most popular with our guests.
Walk through grand halls decorated with marvellous tapestries and get a feel for what life would have been like in King Henry II’s palace. Visit the Royal Chapel dedicated to St. Thomas Becket. Becket was a former friend of Henry II who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral when Henry thought he was a threat to his regal authority. (We explore the life of Thomas Becket on our Private Canterbury Tour.)
Under Henry II’s reign, Dover Castle began to take the shape we would recognise today. Between 1179 and 1188, King Henry spent enormous amounts of money on the castle, making it an increasingly grand and formidable structure.
During this era, the castle came under attack by French forces, led by Prince Louis of France, (the future King Louis VIII), but they ultimately failed to take the mighty castle.
Three centuries later, the Tudors continued to ensure Dover Castle was a part of England’s defence. The infamous King Henry VIII built artillery forts in Dover and along the south-east English coast during 1539–40.
Dover Castle in the Modern Era
It may surprise guests to learn that this magnificent medieval castle has played an essential role in more modern periods of history.
Massive renovations were carried out during the Napoleonic Wars, with new structures added to reinforce Dover Castle. Dover became a garrison town during this period, and there was a need for barracks and storerooms for the additional troops and their equipment.
During this time, tunnel networks began to be built beneath the castle for use as barracks. The same tunnels would later be developed for defensive purposes during WW2.
During World War II, the tunnels were first converted into an air-raid shelter, then later into a military command centre and underground hospital.
Guests fascinated by WW2-era history may also wish to consider our Private Chartwell House Tour, a visit to Sir Winston Churchill’s former home and an exploration of the former Prime Minister’s life.
The Magnificent White Cliffs of Dover
The 350-foot white cliff faces of Dover captures the romance of England’s history for many.
In popular literature, song, and film, the cliffs have been used repeatedly to represent a longing to return to England or marked the safe arrival of someone onto the shores of their homeland.
Today, the White Cliffs of Dover are a beautiful place to take pictures, enjoy a walk and spot wildlife. It’s the perfect spot to catch sight of some remarkable migratory birds who enter and exit the British Isles via the cliffs.
And while you are out walking, keep a lookout for Exmoor Ponies, a native species of ponies that graze on the hills.
On our tour, we’ll explore the mystique of the cliffs, and reserve plenty of time for pictures.
Join John England Tours for an Unforgettable Time in Dover
Take one of our Tailor-Made Tours of South East England and dive deep into English history and culture. Journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes in England while your expert local guide shares the stories of the English past. Begin planning your dream trip to England today.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this tailor-made tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us.